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Phantoms Beat Bears 4-2
Philly Wins Third Straight Over Instate Rival

Friday, December 27, 2002

By By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Peter White and Brad Tiley each recorded two points and Neil Little made 23 saves to lead the Philadelphia Phantoms to a 4-2 victory over the Hershey Bears tonight in front of a season-high crowd of 12,998 at the First Union Spectrum.

The Phantoms scored three times during the opening period and used an empty-net goal in the final seconds to win for the fourth time in their last five games. Philadelphia has now beaten the Bears three games in a row after Hershey had reeled off four consecutive victories in the series. The teams meet again Saturday night in Hershey.

Philadelphia opened the scoring 2:59 into the game on Tiley's second goal of the year and first since Oct. 26 at Hartford. On the power play, White got the puck to John Slaney, who offered a cross-ice pass to Tiley. The veteran defenseman launched a high wrister that made its way through traffic and over goaltender Phil Sauve's left shoulder.

"Slaney made a real nice pass," Tiley recollected. "I didn't know the puck went in. I just shot it on the net. The guys in front of the net did a great job screening their goalie."

Ben Stafford doubled the Phantoms' lead at the 4:21 mark with an unassisted goal. With Sauve out of his crease, Stafford came up with a loose puck along the far boards and quickly fired it on net before Sauve returned for his sixth goal of the year.

Jack Baker widened the gap to 3-0 with 9:11 left in the first period, eight seconds after Hershey's Mikhail Kuleshov was sent off for closing his hand on the puck. White won the face-off and Baker deposited it past Sauve to net his fourth of the season and second in as many games. Rookie goaltender Peter Budaj replaced Sauve following the goal.

Budaj and the Bears held Philadelphia in check during the second period while former Phantom Mark Freer scored twice to make it a 3-2 game. Freer's first goal, his 10th of the season, came 1:39 into the period off feeds by Jordan Krestanovich and Brett Clark. His second, with 8:02 to go, was a follow-up of a missed shot by Rob Voltera.

The Bears nearly evened the score with just over three minutes left in the middle period, but Little stuffed a shorthanded breakaway by Brian Willsie, who was vying for his fifth goal in as many games vs. Philadelphia in 2002-03.

Hershey pulled Budaj with 77 seconds remaining and Philadelphia clinched the win on an empty-netter by Ian MacNeil with 21.6 seconds to play. Tiley assisted on MacNeil's sixth of the season.

"We needed to come out and be ready to play vs. Hershey," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "Special teams are huge this time of year. Two power-play goals to start off the game is excellent. The save on the shorthanded breakaway was a key part of the game. The whole team rallied around that."

The Phantoms complete their home-and-home series with the Bears on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in Hershey. Philadelphia will then spend New Year's Eve in Portland playing against the Pirates at 6:05 p.m. before beginning a three-game homestand next Friday, Jan. 3 at 7:05 p.m. vs. the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Phantoms Notes: Philadelphia scored two power-play goals in a period for the first time this season ... Philadelphia's Peter Vandermeer and Voltera got in a fight four seconds into the game ... White has three goals and six assists during his current five-game point streak. His four-game assist streak is a season high for the Phantoms ... Slaney extended his point streak to four games (1G, 4A) ... Philadelphia's previous attendance high was 9,683 vs. Milwaukee on Nov. 22 ... Baker recorded the game-winning goal for the second night in a row ... Mark Greig had a four-game point streak come to an end.

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